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Shortline Bus

Metro North turns 30

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Derailments, track fires, mechanical break downs, hot cars in the summer, cold cars in the winter and always late. That's the way it was on December 31, 1982, in what was the Metropolitan Region of Conrail. And that's the way it was on January 1, 1983, when the name changed to Metro-North Commuter Railroad.

 

But in the three decades since then, everything has changed. As it celebrates its 30 th birthday today, Metro-North has become the busiest and best passenger railroad in the country with a consistent on-time performance of better than 97% and a customer satisfaction rating of 93%. Metro-North is now internationally recognized for its excellence.

 

Metro-North's next big goal is to provide more frequent service to all stations at all times.

 

"In July, we announced the largest service expansion in Metro-North's history with the addition of 230 trains a week. Most of the new trains will be on weekends and in the off-peak periods to meet non-commutation ridership that is growing about 6% a year," said Metro-North President Howard Permut. “With 30-minute headways, customers are no longer wedded to a timetable.”

 

The transformation started with a focus on customer service and the notion that the railroad should be run like a business, not a government agency.

 

Peter Stangl, the first president of Metro-North recalled one of his first moves as leader of the young railroad was to convene the managers and tell them: “From now on we are going to make our decisions based on what's in the best interest of our customers. And every decision will be driven by that. We started to build a culture of service. Employees bought into it. It took time. But it is what continues to make Metro-North the best commuter railroad in the country.”

 

That mantra has been maintained by all four Metro-North presidents.

 

“The one constant motivating force behind everything Metro-North has accomplished since its formation is you, our customers,” current Metro-North President Howard Permut says in the January issue of “Mileposts,” the railroad's customer newsletter. “Without you, we would not have a reason for being in business.”

 

In 1983 system-wide on-time performance was hovering at 80.5% and annual ridership of 42 million and dropping. Today, Metro-North routinely operates at over 97% on-time system-wide and has annual ridership of almost 84 million.

 

“It was a mess when we took over, an embarrassment to everyone and a disservice to the public,” said Stangl, who was president from 1983 to 1991. “There was no capital funding. There was no leadership from Conrail, which was based in Philadelphia. Morale was in the pits. There's no other way to describe it. The facilities they worked in were terrible.”

 

Donald N. Nelson, the railroad's first Vice President of Operations and later the second president from 1991 to 1998, called himself: “a product of the bankruptcies and collapse of the northeastern railroads in the sixties.”

 

“I understood the necessity of maintaining infrastructure and rolling stock in a state of good repair," Nelson said. “That was always my main focus and took all of my 15 years at Metro-North to achieve (with some exceptions). We were able to continually improve the level of service delivery to that which exists today. We also tried to involve all employees in the solution. I think we were pretty good at that and embedded it into the culture of the railroad.”

 

Peter A. Cannito, Metro-North's third president, also credited the railroad's employees.

 

“A major factor in Metro-North's success is the dedication of the workforce,” Cannito said. “Providing quality service day in and day out is a weighty responsibility that requires a commitment to excellence, outstanding teamwork and pride. I think the men and women who work at this railroad demonstrate these qualities every day. Metro-North's record of achievement is impressive, not just for a railroad that is a public benefit corporation, but for any business,” said Cannito, who retired in 2008 after a 40-year career in the railroad industry.

 

Conrail and its predecessors had not made any investment in tracks, power systems, signals, rolling stock, shops or stations for years. In the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, railroads were not as popular as interstate highways and airports.

 

As a result, the trains had fallen into a state of disrepair and were continually breaking down. Wheels fell off trains. There were severe standee problems due to continual equipment shortages. The elevated Park Avenue Viaduct, the main artery feeding Grand Central, was close to a state of collapse. The Cos Cob Power Plant was original 1910 equipment that couldn't meet the demands of the New Haven Line. This resulted in frequent power shortages and delays. Grand Central Terminal had become de facto shelter for the homeless. Trains were so reliably bad that passengers were clamoring for publicly subsidized buses to operate from outlying stations instead.

 

Metro-North was the very definition of a true transportation crisis.

 

But things began to change under the leadership of Richard Ravitch, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Metro-North's parent agency, who initiated the first capital program in 1982. Since then, the MTA Capital Program has invested over $6 billion in track and power systems, in Metro-North's rolling stock, including the M7 and M8 rail cars, stations, including Yankees-E. 153rd Street Station, and shops & yards, including the new Coach and Locomotive Shops that replaced century-old facilities at Harmon.

 

The state of Connecticut has also invested over $3 billion in improvements on the New Haven Line.

 

And there is the revitalization of Grand Central Terminal, which is celebrating its centennial this year. It began in 1984 with a new copper roof and the terminal has seen continuous investment since then to restore this Beaux-Arts gem to its original grandeur while developing it into a retail and dining destination.

 

“While capital funding was, and is, absolutely critical, it alone could not have alone solved our problems,” said Permut, who has been at Metro-North since its inception and president for the past 4 ½ years. “The new leadership developed a corporate vision. Initially the focus was on the basics: Providing a safe, clean, comfortable ride. The railroad began operating like a private business, setting goals to achieve this modest vision; developing initiatives to meet those goals; and then implementing those initiatives.”

 

To make it a reality, the railroad began hiring the best people it could find and providing them with the training, tools and facilities needed to achieve its goals.

 

“A lot of the people who were young when I became president in 1983 are now running the railroad,” said Stangl, 71, who was railroad president for eight years. “They bought into the culture of customer service and grew up with it and live it.

 

“Building a first-rate workforce also meant forging partnership with our unions and union leadership. Together, we began to break down barriers and give employees a sense of ownership so they could help identify new efficiencies in the workplace. We created a new atmosphere, one where employees were treated well and took pride in their work,” said Permut, 61.

 

In turn, employees treated customers well. This synergy is reflected in the railroad's customer satisfaction survey results. Employees receive positive ratings of 95% to 98% satisfaction.

 

Metro-North has gone from being known as an almost unessential railroad that could be replaced by buses to one that is considered crucial to the region's economic vitality.

 

It carries Hudson Valley & Connecticut residents to the crucial New York City job market. It also carries New York City residents to jobs in suburban employment centers, the so-called “reverse peak market,” creating economic development in proximity to train stations and within suburban communities.

 

In fact, the railroad dropped the word “Commuter” from its name in 1994 in recognition of the fact that the railroad was carrying more people in the off-peak, nights, weekends, in the reverse peak, and those making intermediate trips between stations not in Manhattan than it was the traditional “Man in the Grey Flannel Suit” morning commuter from suburb to central business district. The railroad had become a truly regional transportation resource.

 

Stangl, noting that Permut was “one of my early hires,” credited him with identifying and developing the reverse commutation market. “He got the railroad to allocate more resources to reverse market. Why run them empty, when you can get people on the trains running north in the morning?”

 

Permut is now focused on increasing frequency of service, so that the train is even more attractive alternative to driving.

 

"In the off peak and weekends my goal is roughly 20 to 30 minute service depending on the station. If a place like Hartsdale or Scarsdale, White Plains, Croton Harmon or Tarrytown can support 20 minute service, then it should be 20 minutes. We want Metro-North to provide the value so that people choose to ride us," Permut said.

 

"Metro-North has gone from the worst railroad in North America to the best railroad in North America and it's been a terrific transformation over these 30 years," said Permut noting that in 2011, Metro-North won the prestigious, international Brunel Award's Jury Prize for Overall Excellence in Railroad Design.

 

“In good times and in bad—whether we are meeting the routine daily challenges of running the railroad or working around the clock restoring service after cataclysmic events such as “Superstorm Sandy,” our focus has never wavered. It has always been, and will always be, on our customers,” Permut said."

 

 

http://mta.info/mta/news/releases/?en=130101-MNR1

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Thats a pretty interesting bio right there. Anyways hope to see the addition if more trains. The more the merrier (unless if it's too much for the control board to handle (LOL), but thats a different story right there). Since you live in Poughkeepsie Shortline, how is the loads on the MNRR there.

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Thats a pretty interesting bio right there. Anyways hope to see the addition if more trains. The more the merrier (unless if it's too much for the control board to handle (LOL), but thats a different story right there). Since you live in Poughkeepsie Shortline, how is the loads on the MNRR there.

 

 

The more, the more money. That's it.

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That wasn't even close to what I was trying to say!

 

 

The more trains, the more money paid by passengers. More trains are not needed anyway.

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The more trains, the more money paid by passengers. More trains are not needed anyway.

 

 

Quill you probably never been on the New Haven and Harlem lines most of the day 7 days a week. And even my Hudson Line at certain times as well. We shall see if that your statement Quill is still needed after the (MTA) finishes with the service expansions for MNRR in April. (Next major schedule change)

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Quill you probably never been on the New Haven and Harlem lines most of the day 7 days a week. And even my Hudson Line at certain times as well. We shall see if that your statement Quill is still needed after the (MTA) finishes with the service expansions for MNRR in April. (Next major schedule change)

 

 

I live in Tarrytown, and I have been on all 3. The (MTA) recently hiked up costs for Metro-North. I just don't find more trains necessary. There is still room on trains.

Edited by Quill Depot

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I live in Tarrytown, and I have been on all 3. The (MTA) recently hiked up costs for Metro-North. I just don't find more trains necessary. There is still room on trains.

 

 

However the number of people taking the train will and is increasing slightly, hence the need for more trains, and also to accomudate passengers better.

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MNR has been my favorite railroad since i first rode a New Haven train in 89. Second largest regional railroad on the country! 30 years and counting!!!!

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I live in Tarrytown, and I have been on all 3. The (MTA) recently hiked up costs for Metro-North. I just don't find more trains necessary. There is still room on trains.

 

 

I live in Dutchess and also use MNRR at least couple of times a month. On Upper Hudson it much more crowded than your line young man.The New Haven can be SRO at many parts of the day. You probably hardly ride it MNRR Quill.

Edited by Shortline Bus

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As much as they're charging it should be on time like that... Now if they could give us Bus Time for those Riverdale Hudson Rail Link shuttle buses I would be even happier.

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I live in Dutchess and also use MNRR at least couple of times a month. On Upper Hudson it much more crowded than your line young man.The New Haven can be SRO at many parts of the day. You probably hardly ride it MNRR Quill.

 

 

I ride on a friday afternoon getting to my mom's. And sometimes peak. You ride those trains that make no stops from Yonkers to Croton-Harmon. I see... sorry

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I ride on a friday afternoon getting to my mom's. And sometimes peak. You ride those trains that make no stops from Yonkers to Croton-Harmon. I see... sorry

 

Well like it or not we're both getting service increases... I actually welcome the service esp. for what we pay... I rarely get a seat during rush hour. Those morning trains are turning into subways with the crowds hence why I haven't bothered since late December since the express buses haven't had much problems with traffic... Edited by Via Garibaldi 8

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As much as they're charging it should be on time like that... Now if they could give us Bus Time for those Riverdale Hudson Rail Link shuttle buses I would be even happier.

I don't see that getting BusTime. Besides BusTime is for NYCTA/BUS CO, HRL is under Metro-North, while still under MTA, but different. Frankly the Hudson RaiLink goes by the MNCR Hudson Line Schedule. People on the Hudson Line should already know about the connections. Its just like Bee-Line's Commuter Shuttle Buses, same thing. But thats Westchester's, not NYC.

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I ride on a friday afternoon getting to my mom's. And sometimes peak. You ride those trains that make no stops from Yonkers to Croton-Harmon. I see... sorry

I you want to know the true meaning of CRUSHED use the new haven line on a friday night it's like the lexington line of connecticut!!!! 

 

You want to stand for 30+ mins use the NH line it's like CT's (4) train. People even use it for local trips within CT in HUGE NUMBERS!!!

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I don't see that getting BusTime. Besides BusTime is for NYCTA/BUS CO, HRL is under Metro-North, while still under MTA, but different. Frankly the Hudson RaiLink goes by the MNCR Hudson Line Schedule. People on the Hudson Line should already know about the connections. Its just like Bee-Line's Commuter Shuttle Buses, same thing. But thats Westchester's, not NYC.

Well as far as I'm concerned it is needed.  Sometimes the shuttles cut it really really close and since I have other alternatives it would be nice to know if the bus is running late or already came.  A few times I've actually missed the bus and didn't know it.  Rarely happens but the regular guy tends to come a bit later so if a filler takes his place he may come earlier. In those instances I could've used my other back ups and still had a chance of getting in on time.

 

It is certainly something that I will bring up at the MetroNorth hearing.

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8

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I just don't find more trains necessary. There is still room on trains.

 

 

That's not a fair statement.  While there is still room on some trains, it's not the case to be able to give a blanket statement.  There are many Hudson Line rush hours trains that are SRO.

Edited by Truckie
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That's not a fair statement.  While there is still room on some trains, it's not the case to be able to give a blanket statement.  There are many Hudson Line rush hours trains that are SRO.
you mean CRUSHED like subways right?

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That's not a fair statement.  While there is still room on some trains, it's not the case to be able to give a blanket statement.  There are many Hudson Line rush hours trains that are SRO.

Sure are, even in the summer time...

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MNRR only started in 1983? I thought they were older.

 

Damitt can you read the top of the article JGOOD aka many other names. It stated under name the Conrail in the 1970's after the government took it over.

Edited by Shortline Bus

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MNRR only started in 1983? I thought they were older.

 

 

They took over commuter operations that were being run by Conrail who in turn got them in the Penn Central deal.

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